For Good and Evil: Joseph Smith and Google’s Book Ngram Viewer

[Cross posted from Sixteen Small Stones]

You may have heard about the cool new Book Ngram Viewer from Google Labs. The result of a joint effort by Harvard University, some traditional book publishers, and Google Books, the project uses a sample of 5 million books published between 1500 and the present to identify word and phrase frequencies relative to the number of words published each year. They call these phrase frequencies Ngrams.

While the sample size only represents 4% of books ever published, and the approach is often limited by the complexity of language usage, the project offers a fascinating (not to mention fun!) look not just into language, but into comparative cultural trends, historical events, fads, celebrity, and influence.

And best of all, Google has provided a free web-based interface so that anyone can play around with Ngram searches.

For instance, the Ngram Viewer can be used to compare the usage of the terms Mormon vs LDS:

Continue reading

A One Cent Coin From Nauvoo

[Cross posted from Sixteen Small Stones]

A couple of weeks ago we were helping my parents move a lot of their stuff into storage.   In the last decade, they have moved at least ten times, and, as I’m sure you know if you have moved frequently, there are some boxes that just get shuffled from one home to the next without ever getting unpacked or sorted.  As we were sorting stuff and stacking boxes, I ran across a box of apparently random stuff.  In it there was a small metallic container. I picked it out and opened it up to see what it held. Inside there were two old plastic bags, one containing some kind of white stuff and the other a yellow substance, and tucked in with them was an old coin.

My father said that he believed that the white and yellow stuffs were frankincense and myrrh that some friends had brought them back from the Middle East.   The coin I vaguely remembered from a family vacation we had taken many years before.  It was a road trip from Utah to New York and Washington D. C. and back, stopping along the way to visit sites from U. S. and LDS Church history.

Continue reading